A Cautionary Tale of Title IX Noncompliance

By: Jim Newberry

Published: March 15, 2021

The March 3rd release of Louisiana State University’s (LSU) Title IX Review exposed wide-ranging compliance failures of the University.  According to that review, LSU’s Title IX program (a) was woefully understaffed, (b) “rife with conflict of interest concerns,” (c) failed to maintain appropriate records, and (d) used “work arounds” to control narratives and protect the brand of the institution. The investigation recently received television coverage and highlighted my comments on Title IX policies, guidance, and compliance.

In light of the extraordinary volume of guidance issued by the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) over the years and the enormous public attention devoted to the regulations issued in 2020, LSU’s compliance failures are hard to comprehend. Unfortunately, those failures have cost the institution dearly, and the significant damage to LSU’s reputation is incalculable. Further, investigations by outside counsel come with a high price tag, and a likely investigation by the OCR will add to that cost. In addition, the NCAA may investigate the LSU Athletics Department which was at the center of LSU’s Title IX problems, and that investigation could result in the imposition of sanctions. Accreditors may investigate whether the institution is committed to operating in compliance with its legal obligations.

Even more consequentially, far too many students have had their lives irreparably damaged, and their collegiate experiences ruined.

So how do other institutions avoid the plight which has afflicted LSU? In a recent client alert, my colleagues and I suggested that institutions initiate audits of their Title IX programs to identify and address Title IX problems before they escalate to the levels seen at LSU. In addition, our firm recommends that every institution adopt a compliance and ethics program to identify Title IX and other compliance issues on an ongoing basis and to develop and maintain a culture of compliance.

LSU’s culture of complicity to cover up sexual misconduct was a stark departure from the culture of compliance to which every American institution of higher education should aspire. A well-structured compliance program is the best way to achieve the aspirational goal of a fully compliant college. For additional information on higher education compliance programs, contact any member of our Higher Education Practice Team and register here to join my colleagues and me for a webcast on compliance programs on Wednesday, March 17th at 12:00 pm EST.

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